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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 12–22
Verses 12–22

What was said to all the nations is here with a particular tenderness applied to the nation of the Jews, for whom Jeremiah was sensibly concerned. The case at present stood thus: Judah and Jerusalem had often contested with the king of Babylon, and still were worsted; many both of their valuable persons and their valuable goods were carried to Babylon already, and some of the vessels of the Lord’s house particularly. Now how this struggle would issue was the question. They had those among them at Jerusalem who pretended to be prophets, who bade them hold out and they should, in a little time, be too hard for the king of Babylon and recover all that they had lost. Now Jeremiah is sent to bid them yield and knock under, for that, instead of recovering what they had lost, they should otherwise lose all that remained; and to press them to this is the scope of these verses.

I. Jeremiah humbly addresses the king of Judah, to persuade him to surrender to the king of Babylon. His act would be the people’s and would determine them, and therefore he speaks to him as to them all (Jer. 27:12): Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and live. Isa. it their wisdom to submit to the heavy iron yoke of a cruel tyrant, that they may secure the lives of their bodies? And is it not much more our wisdom to submit to the sweet and easy yoke of our rightful Lord and Master Jesus Christ, that we may secure the lives of our souls? Bring down your spirits to repentance and faith, and that is the way to bring up your spirits to heaven and glory. And with much more cogency and compassion may we expostulate with perishing souls than Jeremiah here expostulates with a perishing people: “Why will you die by the sword and the famine—miserable deaths, which you inevitably run yourselves upon, under pretence of avoiding miserable lives?” What God had spoken, in general, of all those that would not submit to the king of Babylon, he would have them to apply to themselves and be afraid of. It were well if sinners would, in like manner, be afraid of the destruction threatened against all those that will not have Christ to reign over them, and reason thus with themselves, “Why should we die the second death, which is a thousand times worse than that by sword and famine, when we might submit and live?”

II. He addresses himself likewise to the priests and the people (Jer. 27:16), to persuade them to serve the king of Babylon, that they might live, and might prevent the desolation of the city (Jer. 27:17): “Wherefore should it be laid waste, as certainly it will be if you stand it out?” The priests had been Jeremiah’s enemies, and had sought his life to destroy it, yet he approves himself their friend, and seeks their lives, to preserve and secure them, which is an example to us to render good for evil. When the blood-thirsty hate the upright, yet the just seek his soul, and the welfare of it, Prov. 29:10. The matter was far gone here; they were upon the brink of ruin, which they would not have been brought to if they would have taken Jeremiah’s counsel; yet he continues his friendly admonitions to them, to save the last stake and manage that wisely, and now at length in this their day to understand the things that belong to their peace, when they had but one day to turn them in.

III. In both these addresses he warns them against giving credit to the false prophets that rocked them asleep in their security, because they saw that they loved to slumber: “Hearken not to the words of the prophets (Jer. 27:14), your prophets, Jer. 27:16. They are not God’s prophets; he never sent them; they do not serve him, nor seek to please him; they are yours, for they say what you would have them say, and aim at nothing but to please you.” Two things their prophets flattered them into the belief of:—1. That the power which the king of Babylon had gained over them should now shortly be broken. They said (Jer. 27:14), “You shall not serve the king of Babylon; you need not submit voluntarily, for you shall not be compelled to submit.” This they prophesied in the name of the Lord (Jer. 27:15), as if God had sent them to the people on this errand, in kindness to them, that they might not disparage themselves by an inglorious surrender. But it was a lie. They said that God sent them; but that was false; he disowns it: I have not sent them, saith the Lord. They said that they should never be brought into subjection to the king of Babylon; but that was false too, the event proved it so. They said that to hold out to the last would be the way to secure themselves and their city; but that was false, for it would certainly end in their being driven out and perishing. So that it was all a lie, from first to last; and the prophets that deceived the people with these lies did, in the issue, but deceive themselves; the blind leaders and the blind followers fell together into the ditch: That you might perish, you, and the prophets that prophesy unto you, who will be so far from warranting your security that they cannot secure themselves. Note, Those that encourage sinners to go on in their sinful ways will in the end perish with them. 2. They prophesied that the vessels of the temple, which the king of Babylon had already carried away, should now shortly be brought back (Jer. 27:16); this they fed the priests with the hopes of, knowing how acceptable it would be to them, who loved the gold of the temple better than the temple that sanctified the gold. These vessels were taken away when Jeconiah was carried captive into Babylon, Jer. 27:20. We have the story, and it is a melancholy one, 2 Kgs. 24:13, 15; 2 Chron. 36:10. All the goodly vessels (that is, all the vessels of gold that were in the house of the Lord), with all the treasures, were taken as prey, and brought to Babylon. This was grievous to them above any thing; for the temple was their pride and confidence, and the stripping of that was too plain an indication of that which the true prophet told them, that their God had departed from them. Their false prophets therefore had no other way to make them easy than by telling them that the king of Babylon should be forced to restore them in a little while. Now here, (1.) Jeremiah bids them think of preserving the vessels that remained by their prayers, rather than of bringing back those that were gone by their prophecies (Jer. 27:18): If they be prophets, as they pretend, and if the word of the Lord be with them—if they have any intercourse with heaven and any interest there, let them improve it for the stopping of the progress of the judgment; let them step into the gap, and stand with their censer between the living and the dead, between that which is carried away and that which remains, that the plague may be stayed; let them make intercession with the Lord of hosts, that the vessels which are left go not after the rest. [1.] Instead of prophesying, let them pray. Note, Prophets must be praying men; by being much in prayer they must make it to appear that they keep up a correspondence with heaven. We cannot think that those do, as prophets, ever hear thence, who do not frequently by prayer send thither. By praying for the safety and prosperity of the sanctuary they must make it to appear that, as becomes prophets, they are of a public spirit; and by the success of their prayers it will appear that God favours them. [2.] Instead of being concerned for the retrieving of what they had lost, they must bestir themselves for the securing of what was left, and take it as a great favour if they can gain that point. When God’s judgments are abroad we must not seek great things, but be thankful for a little. (2.) He assures them that even this point should not be gained, but the brazen vessels should go after the golden ones, Jer. 27:19, 22. Nebuchadnezzar had found so good a booty once that he would be sure to come again and take all he could find, not only in the house of the Lord, but in the king’s house. They shall all be carried to Babylon in triumph, and there shall they be. But he concludes with a gracious promise that the time should come when they should all be returned: Until the day that I visit them in mercy, according to appointment, and then I will bring those vessels up again, and restore them to this place, to their place. Surely they were under the protection of a special Providence, else they would have been melted down and put to some other use; but there was to be a second temple, for which they were to be reserved. We read particularly of the return of them, Ezra 1:8. Note, Though the return of the church’s prosperity do not come in our time, we must not therefore despair of it, for it will come in God’s time. Though those who said, The vessels of the Lord’s house shall shortly be brought again, prophesied a lie (Jer. 27:16), yet he that said, They shall at length be brought again, prophesied the truth. We are apt to set our clock before God’s dial, and then to quarrel because they do not agree; but the Lord is a God of judgment, and it is fit that we should wait for him.